KARACHI: Kaleemullah can’t stop scoring and Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) can’t stop winning.
The striker scored a hat-trick to take his tally to seven goals in the last three games and help the defending champions record their fourth successive victory in the Pakistan Premier Football League and go top of the league table on Tuesday after they thumped Muslim FC 4-1.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Army also kept their form going after they defeated Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) 2-0, Afghan FC clinched a vital victory when they edged Wohaib FC 1-0 and the two matches that were postponed on Monday due to rains in Punjab ended in draws.
KRL lead National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) on goal difference with both sides having 28 points although KRL have three games in hand over their summit rivals. Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and Army are third and fourth respectively, a point behind the joint-leaders.
KRL manager Tariq Lutfi was full of praise for his ace marksman Kaleemullah as they overcame tough opposition from Muslim FC to record victory by a rather flattering margin at the Railways Football Stadium in Lahore.
“Kaleemullah has finally clicked and he is banging in the goals,” Lutfi told Dawn from Lahore. “It is a great sign for us. We changed the formation and our playing style to assist him and it is working out perfectly.”
Lutfi added that the victory against the Chaman outfit is a great boost for his side in their bid to defend their title.
“Muslim FC are a tough side to beat,” he said. “It is a great result for us and if we continue in the same form and win our remaining three matches in Lahore, we’ll be in a good position to reclaim our title.
“There is good competition at the top of the table as there are four teams separated by a single point so it promises to be thrilling race to the finish.”
Kaleemullah gave KRL an early lead when he netted in the ninth minute against Muslim FC, who have 18 points after some impressive displays in the league.
Their lead lasted for 30 minutes as Mohammad Dawood scored the leveller to give the champions an idea of what was in store for them.
But KRL came back strongly in the second-half and Zia-ul-Islam gave them the lead in the 64th and Kaleemullah doubled it eight minutes later before completing his second hat-trick in three games when he rounded off the scoring in the 84th.
In Rawalpindi, Army’s rich vein of form continued as they recorded another impressive victory at home after goals by Imran Hussain and Mohammad Ikram helped them down PIA.
Imran gave his side the lead in the 36th minute at the Army Stadium before Ikram sealed all three points when he scored in the 65th to leave PIA at 15 points from 12 games.
At the UMT Football Ground in Lahore, Jadeed Khan Pathan’s 65th minute goal gave struggling Afghan FC a crucial win against fellow strugglers Wohaib FC.
The result meant that Afghan FC increased their points to 10 from 11 games while Wohaib are bottom of the league with a paltry four points from as many as 12 games.
In the fixtures that were shifted from Monday, Wapda were held to a 1-1 draw by the Pakistan Navy while PMC Athletico held Baloch FC to a goalless draw.
Waseem Abbas gave Wapda the lead in the 57th minute but their joy was short-lived as Mohammad Ramzan levelled for Navy six minutes later to give his side a share of the spoils.
The point helped Wapda raise their points tally to 18 from 13 games while Navy have 15 from 14.
Goalkeeper Basit Ghafoor was the hero for PMC as he kept Baloch FC at bay with a string of superb saves at the PMC Football Ground in Faisalabad.
The result meant that PMC now have 11 points from 13 games while Baloch FC have seven from 13.
Wednesday’s fixtures: PAF v HBL (PAF Complex Ground, Peshawar); ZTBL v KPT (Jinnah Football Stadium, Islamabad).